VCU Libraries' inaugural spring book sale with new student leaders as partners was a success.

Library boosters and student leaders partner for book sale fundraiser

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For many years, the Friends of VCU Libraries has held an annual book sale to raise funds to support library programs. The annual fall sale was not held in 2014 and 2015 during construction of the new Cabell Library.

During the hiatus, the development office and the book sale committee evaluated the sale and decided that it, like the building itself, was due for a makeover.

For book lovers, it’s the ultimate reuse-recycle shopping experience and you can buy wonderful books for very little money.

While the book sale has been a steady source of income for Friends of VCU Libraries programming, it also requires an investment of hundreds of hours of staff and volunteer time to organize and manage the sale. “Nationwide, lots of libraries hold book sales. Generally, as a fundraising tool, they’re not terribly efficient. They’re hard, dusty work and they demand lots of staff and volunteer time,” said Kelly Gotschalk, director of development and major gifts for VCU Libraries.

“Their greatest value is in their community service and community engagement aspects. People rally around the sale and like to help. For book lovers, it’s the ultimate reuse-recycle shopping experience and you can buy wonderful books for very little money.”

How could VCU’s book sale move to the next level in its community service and be better managed in the future? The answer Gotschalk arrived at: Tap into VCU’s deep student talent pool.

Leadership in action

Gotschalk reached out to Reuban Rodriguez, Ed.D., associate vice provost and dean of student affairs, who referred her to VCU’s innovative Emerging Leaders Program. This initiative of the Division of Student Affairs matches 40 first-year students with 20 sophomore mentors. They learn about leadership through both study and action.

“Emerging Leaders was created as a dynamic first-year leadership program that would support the recruitment and success of academically talented students from across Virginia,” said James Gahagan, Ph.D., who directs the program. “Once students are invited to participate in the program, they take leadership classes together and are assigned an upper-class mentor who meets weekly with two to three students and assists them in their transition to VCU.

“These mentor/mentee groups, called ‘pods,’ then begin to work on a service project that directly impacts the quality of student life at VCU or life in the greater Richmond community. This year’s projects included an emphasis on bystander accountability, encouraging students toward healthy eating and helping to establish a thrift store.”

The student leaders group and the Friends of VCU Libraries agreed to a labor- and profit-sharing partnership with the VCU Libraries book sale. The students’ help in promoting and staffing the annual book sale will yield funds (30 to 50 percent of total revenues) that they, in turn, will roll over into their own community service projects.

Book sale donations directly benefit student projects

“In this way, a portion of the money generated from books donated to the libraries will immediately and directly benefit student activities and important student-centered projects on campus,” Gotschalk said. “Monies raised from the book sale during October, for instance, will help fund student service projects in the current academic year.”

In the leadership development program, “we are challenged with identifying a problem in the community and developing a project to help solve it,” said Virginia Slattum, a nursing student and mentor in 2015-16. “Historically, we had to raise funds to complete the project that we implement. During my project last year, we spent a large portion of our time raising funds and, therefore, had less time to actually implement the project, so this partnership with the Friends [of VCU Libraries] is fantastic.”

Beginning in fall 2015, the students and Friends of VCU Libraries members met, brainstormed and worked together to develop plans for an experiment: A one-day, pop-up style book sale in the new Cabell Lecture Hall.

The April 20 sale — followed by a half-day reduced price event — succeeded. Sales exceeded $5,000 during the one and a half days. “The students also brought more students to the sale than I recall participating previously,” said University Librarian John E. Ulmschneider.

“I had no idea the event would be so successful,” Slattum said. “The amount of money raised in one day was beyond expectation and I am very excited to see what the fall book sale will bring. Students were very excited and bought a lot of books.”

Students brought energy and enthusiasm to the sale, according to Nick Cooke, chair of the Friends of VCU Libraries Book Sale. “These students are just delightful to work with. We look forward to this new partnership and all that it will bring in terms of growing a relationship between the Friends and VCU’s students as well as the increased visibility and success of the sale.”

The incoming Emerging Leadership Program will be working on the five-day fall sale in September when they return to campus from summer break. The fall sale is scheduled for Oct. 27-31 in the Lecture Hall of James Branch Cabell Library.


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